A Walk on the Beach with Pedro Alvares Cabral

Brazil - The Making of a Novel - Part 12

The Journey:  Porto Seguro/Salvador July 12 - July17, 1980

Thirteen hour overnight bus ride, Salvador to Porto Seguro.
Nothing on earth could make me believe this could be true: Here, in Porto Seguro, I meet Iva Lee Hartman ex West Virginia, ex-Bryanston/Three Vikings/Bryanston Country Club/Ciro's/my godfather's nightclub, Diamond Horseshoe (places Iva frequented in Johannesburg, South Africa.)

Iva now lives in Porto Seguro like a decadent aristocrat as owner of “Campo Gringo” resort and “Engenho do Duque.” From three to nine p.m. spent in company of this lovely/sad/lonely/exotic figure, as memorable a meeting as anything yet in Brazil!
I'm working on Porto Seguro contacts: Senhor Benedito, “town crier” promises meeting early hour tomorrow. As I write I realize that I've not slept since 8.00 a.m. Sunday 12th; now 10 p.m. Monday 13th = 38 hours. Good night!
The beach at Porto Seguro, Brasil
Curious thing about Porto Seguro is that though this is where Pedro Álvares Cabral landed, scene of the “discovery” of Brazil, there is little to mark so momentous an event for the people of Brazil.

There is a Cross, several in fact, at the alleged landing spot - stark, little adorned, no more. A decadent Indian village - Patachos - around the Cross, selling necklaces, feathered arrows, other trinkets.

Craig Hartman tells me some local townsfolk wanted village moved. I wonder whether they saw irony of the Cross and the ruined people at its feet.

The Cross as symbol of the advent of the Portuguese; the curio-selling favela as symbolic of what the Indians who welcomed Cabral inherited.
Errol Lincoln Uys at the Cross, Porto Seguro

Sixteen kilometers away from Porto Seguro to the south is Cabrália Santa Cruz, which claims to be site of first landing.
Who is correct? I'm told by Antonietta that accepted historical view is Cabrália, not Porto Seguro - which must irritate the hell out of its people, for it's truly depressed compared with Porto Seguro. Cabrália also seems far more noted for relics of an ill-fated French vessel which foundered on its reef. Its “restaurant” decorated with the ship's hawsers, ventilators, life belts etc.
A reflection on the days of Cabral... Porto Seguro
Can hardly imagine reaction of the Portuguese who got here first. The magnificent beaches, the groves of palm trees, the hills in the background leaning toward the shore, their heights offering special defensive positions.

Landing of Pedro Álvares Cabral, Oscar Pereira da Silva,
Museu Paulista , São Paulo
First Mass in Brazil, Victor Meirelles,Museu Nacional de Belas Artes

I'm increasingly impressed with outgoing friendship of the Brazilian people. Group at supper watched me eating alone and invited me over. Two couples from São Paulo, who afterwards asked if I would like to go for a walk. They share their spontaneous enthusiasm for Brazil, the future of their country - We talk of African/Indian folklore, its fundamental force behind Brazilian culture.
(Back in Salvador) After all my worry about visas etc., Antonietta says I'm fortunate having a South African background. Brazilians do care but know little of apartheid. Show that you do not support that insanity and they're likely to be far more receptive to you than they would be to a North American.

Antonietta is, of course, first major contact and there'll be other opinions, but she speaks of underlying resentment toward the U.S., its multinationals, its prejudice toward Brazil.
I've been here ten days and my sense of identification with the Brazilian people grows. They're vibrant, friendly, energetic - a nation imbued with the pioneer spirit. They have a vision that theirs is a nation going places, though the direction is not always clear.
The contrasts between rich and poor, old and new, were initially staggering to me and remain so. But even among the poor, there seems no utter wretchedness: even they have a sense of the potential of Brazil, and thus, hope.
I see this hope in a small self-help program at Porto Seguro and Cabrália: the townspeople have tackled the problem of the abandonados by giving the youngsters jobs as tourist guides. They're taught to lead visitors through the old parts of town. Twenty years down the road, I'll lay a bet, one of them could be running his own tour operation.

Brazil - The Epic Novel of a Great Nation and Its People

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